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How much snow can my roof hold?

What a Major Snow Event Can Mean for Your Building

Here in the Northeast we commonly get weather forecasts that sort of go like this…

“A massive winter storm is heading this way and we’re expecting between 2 and 28 inches of snow or possibly rain. Stay tuned for more updates.”

Super helpful, right?

How much snow can my roof hold

Whether the weather comes or goes, there actually are a few very important things you should be aware of… just in case the weather is guessed right.

How much does snow weigh?

How much does snow weigh?

First of all, you may not be aware that one foot of snow can weigh anywhere from 3 lbs. to 21 lbs. per square foot depending on the snow type. Add in a freeze/thaw/freeze cycle and you have a real scale tipper. 

1 foot of snow can weigh anywhere from 3 lbs. per square foot to 21 lbs. per square foot.

A building’s structure is only designed to hold a certain amount of load and when that load is exceeded, things can get scary quickly. Many property managers find themselves asking “how much snow can my roof hold?”

Even if snow accumulations don’t rack up to astonishing amounts, unbalanced loads can still create issues.  An unbalanced load happens when drifting snow piles up in a centralized area.  This can happen around large rooftop units, along walls or any number of other areas.

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There are many benefits to clearing snow and ice from your roof system and we can help ensure that your roof will clear and drain properly. Get on the list today!
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How can I tell if my roof has too much snow on it?

So what actually happens when your roof gets too much weight on it and becomes over-stressed?  How can you tell if you might be in an unsafe environment?  Here is a list of indicators that may mean you need to move to a safer place.

  • You notice sagging ceiling tiles or boards or ceiling tiles start to fall out of the grid system.
  • Overhead sprinkler lines/heads begin to sag.
  • Sprinkler heads deflect below the ceiling tiles.
  • You can hear popping, cracking or creaking noises.
  • You notice bowing in structural members like trusses or webbing.
  • Cracks or splits are seen in wood members.
  • Cracks or splits can be seen in the masonry walls.
  • Several roof leaks are found that weren’t there before.

What do you do if you find any of these issues?

Remain calm and don’t panic. Evacuate the building as a precaution. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Call your local emergency services provider such as the fire company.

Roof collapse from snow load

Clearing roof drainage points allows the melting snow to leave the roof system which helps get the weight off the roof.

Also you can call a licensed roofer with experience in snow removal and also a structural engineer to assess any damage.  Licensed professionals understand the safety measures that need to be followed.  They can make the call on whether or not it is safe to access the roof and begin removing the snow load.

It’s also worth noting that having the drains, gutters or scuppers cleared of snow is still a good idea after a large accumulation, even if it isn’t an emergency situation.  Clearing these drainage points allows the melting snow to leave the roof system which helps get the weight off the roof.

The roofer will also clear paths to the drains and remove snow from around rooftop units.  Caution must be taken when removing the snow so the membrane isn’t damaged.

Hopefully you won’t need to use any of this information though. Just remember to keep an eye out if the snow starts to pile up. Be safe, stay warm and happy snowman building!

Get on the list!

Interested in roof snow removal services? Sign up now!

Our snow removal services are completed on a first-come first-served basis.
There are many benefits to clearing snow and ice from your roof system and we can help ensure that your roof will clear and drain properly. Get on the list today!
Get on the list!
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In the market for a trustworthy and professional roofing contractor?

Founded in 1974, Jurin Roofing Services, Inc. is known for top quality roofing throughout the east coast. Jurin Roofing Services is a full-service commercial roofing contractor offering roof maintenance, roof and leak repair, and roof replacements. Jurin Roofing Services also offers professional roof services such as roof inspections and infrared roof moisture scans. Jurin Roofing is also a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and is a Carlisle SynTec Hall of Fame and ESP (Excellence in Singly Ply) contractor.
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About the Author:

Mike Shultz
Mike works with our new and existing clients to solve the problems created by their existing roofing systems. While an aging roof system may be ready for replacement, a new roof will not always eliminate the existing problems. Mike’s goal is to identify and remove the issues most contractors overlook. A quality contractor is the one that will take the time to learn what the needs of the building owner are, identify the needs of the building itself and assemble a solution that best accommodates these needs.

3 Comments

  1. Sue April 8, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks for the great article. I grew up in Maine and lived for a while in Colorado so I’ve seen some big snow storms. Having shoveled out of those snow storms I knew wet snow is much heavier. But I’m still surprised by the number of 21 pounds for 1 square foot of snow. When I see this, I better understand why roofs start collapsing under the strain of these large snow falls.

  2. Cliff Carithers June 16, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Great article. My mother-in-law had a problem with heavy snow and never thought weather I roof can hold or not. Soon enough her roof started to collapse in certain areas of her roof. Sure enough she got her roof fixed right away and is now scared to have any snow on her roof.

  3. David Hawkins June 20, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    That’s really crazy that snow can weigh so much when it really doesn’t look like it. I know that roof snow is a big issue in my neighborhood since it could fall off and actually hurt someone really bad. I’ll have to call a service and schedule them to come by my home when the snow gets really bad. Thanks for the awesome tips!

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